Oklahoma City Blue advance to Round Two of D-League Playoffs

Apr 6, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A NBA basketball rests on the floor in a timeout between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Milwaukee 104-99. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 6, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A NBA basketball rests on the floor in a timeout between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Milwaukee 104-99. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

After a disappointing game one loss, Oklahoma City bounced back to send the Warriors packing in the first round…the Santa Cruz Warriors that is.

Game One

The OKC Blue had all hands on deck for game one of their best-of-three match-up against the Santa Cruz Warriors. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Josh Huestis joined the team for the entire series and didn’t take long to make his presence felt. Huestis recorded a near double-double with 26 points and nine rebounds on 5-7 from three-point range. He also added his value defensively with three steals and three blocked shots.

Even with the monumental effort from both Huestis and Dakari Johnson – who added 28 points and 11 rebounds – OKC went into halftime down 14 points. The Blue weren’t yet out of it though. Coach Mark Daigneault leaned more on his starters in the second half to try and come back from the large deficit, and it worked.

The bench just could not gain any traction against the Warriors and were a liability defensively throughout the game. Forwards Chris Wright and Kameron Woods totaled seven points off the bench and a combined -37 in plus/minus for the game. That simply won’t cut it for the playoffs and was a big reason why the Blue ultimately lost this game, albeit by only one point.

Game Two

With their backs against the wall in a win or go home game two, the OKC Blue came out with high energy. They were clearly determined to have a better start to this game, better than the last. Oklahoma City averaged 35 points through the first three quarters and put the Warriors on notice that they were not going down easily. Many players performed well in this contest as the starters did not play such heavy minutes like they did the previous game.

Dakari Johnson was again fantastic, scoring 29 points to go along with 11 rebounds, but Woods was the stand-out in this one. He took the last loss personally. So personally that he turned his play around and put forth 15 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. That’s the game to game improvement teams like to see when selecting players.

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Santa Cruz was never really close in this game as they were dominated almost wire to wire. They used most of the fourth quarter to give their bench guys extra looks after being down by 26 points to begin the frame.

Game Three

The tie-breaker game was a bit of a mixture of the first two games. Santa Cruz opened up hot as they scored 40 points in the first quarter. OKC stayed in the fight, however, scoring 29 in the first quarter and following that up with a strong second quarter to put them ahead by halftime. The third quarter was back and fourth for a while, but the fourth is when the Blue absolutely took control.

Entering the quarter down by three points, the Blue used a jump-start by Dez Wells off the bench to get them going. Wells, along with the three-headed monster of Huestis, Johnson, and Daniel Hamilton, all scored above twenty points at the game’s end.

Hamilton was the high man with 30 points and 12 rebounds, which is not unusual to him or the team. Coach Daigneault rode the hot hand in Well, and it paid off for him. Wells recorded 21 points off the bench and posted a plus/minus of +34 alone. That is insane!

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OKC held the Warriors to only 15 points in the fourth quarter, compared to their 38. It was an absolute dominate quarter by this group and definitely a confidence builder heading into their next series.

OKC Blue and Rio Grande Valley Vipers Up Next

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers finished off the Los Angeles D-Fenders in three games and will face off against the Blue later this week in a new best-of-three series. The Western Conference Finals is sure to be an exciting one.

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OKC won the head to head match-up against the Vipers this season 3-1, but all of that means very little at this time. In fact, the Vipers will likely trot out an entirely new starting line-up during this series than they’ve faced throughout the season.

The Vipers come into this series just as hot as the Blue, if not hotter. A couple of key players have stepped up for them lately in their two wins to advance to this round. Sheldon McClellan recently scored 33 points to help his team move on. The Vipers scored 140 points as a team and only needed 4 quarters to do so.

That type of electric offense is something that the Blue has to get under control early or they will get blown out the gym. OKC will also need to have players take an extra step off the bench, whether it is Dez Wells again or Kameron Woods. OKC does have home-court advantage in this one, but like last series, the first game will be played on the road.